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On Sept. 11, one of England’s famous plaques noting the literary historical significance of a particular location will be unveiled at Talland House, Virginia Woolf’s summertime home in St. Ives from 1882-1894.

Blogging Woolf was part of a pilgrimage to Talland House in 2004. This photo depicts the front right corner of the home.

Unlike London’s Blue Plaques, this one will have a black background and white letters, the colors of the Cornish flag.

Although Woolf sets her 1927 novel To the Lighthouse in the Hebrides, St. Ives is its true location and inspiration. Godrevy Lighthouse, three miles out across the bay, was part of her view each summer and inspired the titular pilgrimage made by the novel’s family, the Ramsays.

How it came to be

Woolfians from around the globe raised nearly £4,000 to help fund the plaque, which was championed by Maggie Humm, author and vice-chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. She says the property, Talland House, is a “crucial part of the Woolf story.”

Humm, author of the novel Talland House,was a major force behind the effort. She advocated for the move by providing St. Ives Town Council with useful and persuasive information about the summers Woolf spent at Talland House until the age of 12.

The society proposed the idea for a plaque 20 years ago but stepped up its efforts during the past four years. The St. Ives Town Council approved the idea in March.

We first reported about this effort in October of 2021.

Community response

The proposal for the plaque elicited more than a dozen comments from supporters, local and otherwise.

Here is one from the woman who has restored the Talland House gardens to the glory of Woolf’s time:

The research I have undertaken to inform me about which heritage plants to use in the garden has revealed, beyond my initial imaginings, just how important Talland House and St Ives were to Woolf and to what was to become a groundbreaking new form of literature and key component of Modernism. In her memoirs she describes a philosophy of life that was formed in the garden at Talland house, that she carried with her throughout her life and that fed into her work, informed it even. The house, and gardens, significance cannot be underestimated! – Polly Carter

And here is another from a St. Ives resident and a former resident of Talland House:

As an ex-resident of the house I met many people who had travelled to St. Ives purely for the Virginia Woolf connection; often I would see them in the road looking up to the house and would go and talk to them. Seeing how much the house and surrounding area meant to these people, a plaque honouring Virginia and marking the place that inspired her so much would be perfect. I spoke to previous owners of the building who said Virginia Woolf fans have been coming for years. Chris Roberts

Note: Talland House sits above Porthminster beach. This blog’s header photo depicts a 2004 view of the beach from just below Talland House.

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View of the front right corner of Talland House (2004)

Never underestimate the power of a Virginia Woolf scholar who has a Virginia Woolf society behind her.

Thanks to the efforts of Maggie Humm, a member of the executive council of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, a plaque commemorating the time Virginia Woolf spent in St. Ives, Cornwall, will be installed at Talland House.

Humm, author of the novel Talland House,was a major force behind the effort. She advocated for the move by providing St. Ives Town Council with useful and persuasive information about the summers Woolf spent at Talland House until the age of 12.

We first reported news about this effort last October. But now, we have more details and photos to share, as tweeted by @MaggieHumm1.

Timeline of the effort and fundraising

According to a story in the Jan. 28, 2022, issue of The St Ives Times & Echo, the British society first submitted a proposal for such a plaque in October of 2020. However, the Town Council did not support it due to lack of funding.

Cornwall Council and local MP Derek Thomas supported later requests from the VWSGB, which resulted in the St. Ives Town Council reversing its stand. Last month, the Council learned that the owner of Talland House also supported the move and the Council approved it by an unanimous vote.

The plaque, which will be black, will be hand-fired in Cornwall. It will be installed on the right-hand side of the east elevation on the second story of the house.

Funding details have yet to be established, but St. Ives Town Council, in partnership with the VWSGB, has launched a fundraising effort on Spacehive.

Part of a heritage trail?

Woolf’s plaque may be part of a larger effort in St. Ives, one that would use the plaques to recognize other notable people that are part of the town’s heritage.

If the heritage tied up in this remarkable property had been fully understood at an early time it may well have become the town’s main ‘heritage asset’. – “Virginia Woolf to finally be celebrated on a plaque at Talland House,” The St Ives Times & Echo, Jan. 28, 2022.

Front page of the Jan. 28, 2022, issue of the St Ives Times & Echo

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